The South African government has denied an application from a multi-million dollar project aimed at developing genetically modified sorghum. Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International (AHBFI) is running the project, which is attempting to develop sorghum with additional iron, zinc, and vitamins.
In the last five years AHBFI has received around $18.5 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Kenyan scientist Florence Wambugu, the head of AHBFI, says that she asked to run her greenhouse trials in South Africa because of South Africa’s strict legal framework regarding genetically modified crops.
Kenya, the home of the project, presently lacks the policies and legalities that would ensure the security and validity of the experiments. South Africa denied the application because of “biosecurity” issues that need to be dealt with. Apparently, the government is concerned that the project could contaminate local wild sorghum. According to Wambugu, AHBFI will “comply, [and] we will certainly go back and reapply to start the project.”
Wambugu is confident that the government will approve the second application. Coincidentally, on the same day that the application got turned down the Kenyan parliament crushingly defeated a motion from one of its Members of Parliament that would have put a complete ban on all production, consumption, and sale of genetically modified food. The Kenyan government claims the country is able to handle GM biosafety issues.